In maybe the least surprising outcome possible, Oregon rolled over Colorado this past weekend, by the score of 44-10. The win put the Ducks at 10-1 and decreased the number of games between them and the College Football Playoff to two. Let's look at how Oregon was able to run away with this one.
Royce Freeman 20-yard touchdown run
After Colorado began the game with a recovered onside kick that could only net a punt, Oregon took over the ball for the first time and marched down the field. The drive ended with this Royce Freeman run.
The play is a look we've seen pretty often from Oregon this year, with the left guard(Doug Brenner) and the center (Hamani Stevens) pulling to lead the way for Freeman. The Ducks also send Byron Marshall in on a crack down block on the safety who comes up in run support, leaving the corner to be picked up by one of the pulling linemen.
The reason Freeman has such a big lane to run through on this play is the block thrown by Marshall. He absolutely levels the safety, who then falls into a few more pursuing Buffs. This seals the inside of the lane.
This leaves only two defenders who really have a shot at bringing down Marshall, the corner and the weakside safety coming over. The corner is picked up by the pulling Brenner and the safety does not take a great pursuit angle, leaving Freeman with only an arm tackle to run through to score Oregon's first touchdown of the day.
Marcus Mariota 46-yard touchdown run
After both teams exchanged punts, Oregon took the ball back over with less than a minute left in the first quarter. Which, as you know, is plenty of time for the Ducks.
The bread and butter of the Oregon offense has always been the read option, and this play is pretty much the text book version of it. Oregon lines up with four receivers, two split out to each side. When the play begins these receivers simulate screens, which takes the four Colorado defensive backs out of this play.
By now everyone and their mother understands how the read option works, and there are really two ways for defenses to defend the look. Either defenses can have the unblocked, "read" defender always take the running back and have another defender spying the quarterback (in red), or they can have the read defender always take the QB and try to bottle up the middle (in blue).
The problem for Colorado is the read defender bites in on the running back without any help behind him, leaving Mariota with all of the room to run. The two Colorado defenders left with a chance get caught flat-footed and Mariota flies right by them.
Side note: Watching Mariota do the heart tap and point to the crowd after scoring made me sad. We're going to miss you Marcus.
Marcus Mariota 30-yard touchdown pass to Charles Nelson
Halfway through the second quarter Oregon was cruising with a 20-3 lead that already felt insurmountable for the Buffs. Of course the Ducks weren't quite done yet.
Remember the first play we broke down, with Freeman getting the edge and scoring Oregon's first touchdown of the day? Of course you do, you just read it. Well anyway, here Oregon does a beautiful job of using that same look to catch Colorado being a little over aggressive.
The play begins the same, with the linemen pulling and the receiver, this time Charles Nelson, taking a run in at the safety.
Colorado bites, thinking they know what's coming. Except here, Nelson does not block down on the safety like Marshall did earlier in the game, and instead runs a deep post over the middle of the field which had been vacated by the safety coming up in run support.
It's unclear whether this is a designed run fake or whether its a combination play that gives Mariota the option to hand it off or make the play. But Mariota keeps his eyes downfield and delivers a pass right on the numbers to Nelson, who easily walks into the endzone.
This is something Oregon has done really well this season, packaging looks together to keep defenses on their heels. With the speed and athleticism this Duck's offense possesses, the only way to contain them is to get the first jump. But Frost and Helfrich have done a good job in keeping defenses uneasy and letting Mariota make reads on the fly which he is incredible at.
Awesome Royce Freeman Run of the Day
In the box score, that's just a nine yard run.